“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Breathless at CNN. The Return of the Helicopter Metaphor.

The most recurring iconic photo of the US war in Viet Nam included the helicopter.

There were the pictures of street assassinations and a young girl running along dirt roads, burned and naked, but nothing had the pure propaganda value of the downed chopper.

There is a reason for that and we have touched on it many times here at The Elephant. The US edge in the planning and conduct of warfare is in technology. It is our ability to shock and awe with overwhelming superior weaponry. Pictures and stories of downed planes and choppers have a psychological impact on supporters and those opposed to the war.

It is like many things in war, of minimum military significance but in the war of images conducted on the internet, it is of immense propaganda value. It is the new body count, except this time the bodies are awkward hulks of downed helicopters.

Fifth U.S. chopper in 18 days goes down in Iraq
POSTED: 8:22 a.m. EST, February 7, 2007

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A U.S. military sent a quick reaction force to the site of downed helicopter about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.

The downed chopper is a CH-46 Sea Knight, and the cause of the crash is unknown, said U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell. He did not provide further detail.

Two witnesses told Reuters they saw a twin-rotor Chinook transport helicopter crash amid gunfire from the ground Wednesday.

The Chinook and Sea Knight are similar twin-rotor helicopters, and according to Boeing, which manufactures the choppers, the Chinook was designed for the Army while the Sea Knight was produced for the Navy.

Four U.S. helicopters -- three military and one civilian -- were shot down in Iraq between January 20 and Friday, raising concerns that insurgents are becoming more proficient at downing the aircraft. Sixteen U.S. troops were killed in the three military chopper crashes.

The Senate Armed Services Committee raised the issue Tuesday during a hearing on the military budget.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, asked Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace if the helicopter attacks mean "that enemy forces have achieved some higher level of capability with shoulder-fired missiles."

Pace responded that it was his understanding that the choppers were shot down with small arms, not missiles.

He further said each incident is investigated and "at this point and time, I do not know whether or not it is the law of averages that caught up with us or if there's been a change in tactics, techniques and procedures on the part of the enemy, which is what the investigation will do."


  1. Some good relevant comments from the previous thread.

    Fellow Peacekeeper said...

    About the chopper thing - the way it hit, a sudden rash of shootdowns, and the immediate use of multiple weapons types points to a specialized muj air defence unit (cell?) starting operations, rather than adding individuals and weapons to groups already in place. That again points to a state sponser, figure Syria if Sunni or Iran if Shia.

    The date this thing started is again end January, so project a couple weeks back for deployment, more like two months.

    Add that to Karbala. Figure a couple weeks to a couple months to set that up.

    Where does that put us?

    Hypothesis : The november US elections may have caused some bastards to perceive the US effort in Iraq to be going wobbly. They may well have perceived that any possibility of the USA striking back against a third party even blatently stirring up Iraq will have gone with a dem congress. Back around nov-dec they gave the green light to a number of semi-covert operations which had been too hot to consider with a 'publican congress. They mayigure a good push now can cause congress to keel over, the US to withdraw, Iraq to fall into their hands and murder any chance for a republican win in '08. Takes time (a couple months) for units to move and infiltrate, supplies to arrive, rehearsals to finalise. We're seeing their efforts starting to cut in now. The bastards being Iran or Syria or both.

    The USA knew something was coming and hence the surge ... that would mean the surge is not an offensive operation, but a proactive defence, and explains why US forces suddenly must take the lead contrary to the general thrust of Vietnamization up to this point. Figure the US could actually go out of its way to cover up Iranian involvement unless a decision to strike Iran is made, when it would be used as a smoking gun.

    Test: If this is true, we should see a series of events like the chopper shootdown or Karbala kidnapping, where the "insurgents" suddenly manifest surprising capabilites.

    Wed Feb 07, 08:36:00 AM EST

  2. Quite a mess, down south of the border, down Mexico way.

    re: Bigbirds down

    The military admitted to at least one SAM being involved. Now they say they are not sure why the birds are falling down. Disinformation, most likely.

    Remember the video, the bird was orbiting, flying overwatch, not moving at speed at treetop.

    Not in and out, but eyes in the sky and gun platforms. Scoot & shoot training has been forgotten.

    Same as was reported to me, by my Marine. Quality of training has devolved in the "real" world of Iraq. Artillery no longer trains for shoot & scoot, counterbattery not as grave a threat as IEDs.
    So that is how they trained in Okinawa, shoot, nap, shoot again.

  3. Remember the Afganistan lessons learned by both the Soviets and the Mohammedans.

    The tide did not turn, for the Mohammedans, until the Soviets lost total dominance of the air.

    We do not control the road routes, what happens when do not control the sky lanes, either. When the Green Zone is no longer an "easy hop" from the airport?

  4. From CNN : At this point and time, I do not know whether or not it is the law of averages that caught up with us or if there's been a change in tactics, techniques and procedures on the part of the enemy, which is what the investigation will do," Pace said.

    Our available info points to its an addition, not a change, and a symptom of something bigger. Sometimes, its fortunate the MSMs ace newsies are a bunch of Arkins, and Pace can get away with drivelling, while actually concealing a cunning plan from the paying public (Assuming it is a cunning plan, and not for instance an inability to connect the dots, right, RIGHT?) Since OPFOR certainly knows what they're about that means ... ah, we're being kept in the dark to protect the politicians from the wrath of the voters?

    Jeezus, I sound like a defeatist Daily Kos diarist. From France. *crawls off to die with a whimper*

  5. DR, dead right.

    They do their sums, and the one thing that allows the US and friends to conduct operations in a huge and largely hostile city of 4 million people is helicopters. Immediate fire support, reconaissance, control of high cround (rooftops). No CAS from fast movers in that environment, no arty.

    Speaking of CAS, I just watched the A-10 friendly fire video. Do not understand how the zoomies were exonerated. Do not understand how those two yahoos got to fly fighter jets.

    "Dude, you just wasted some friendly forces!"
    "No way dude!"
    "Way dude"
    "If they are friendlies, dude, why were they orange?"
    "Dunno, beats the crap outta me dude,"
    "Shit! Like, y'know, air recognition panels?"
    "No way dude! I thought it was like rockets or something!"
    "Me too dude!"
    "Dude! Why would the Iraqis out fluro orange rockets on a camoflagued TEL?"
    "It was panels dude"
    "No way! They gonna like take away the keys to our planes dude!"
    "Nooo! Seriously dude?"

    Well, close enough. I must note, I'm infantry, and deeply prejudiced, 'cause I instinctively despise zoomies of all nationalities, genders, disabilities, ages, races and sexual orientations.

  6. Who else is there, that does not know, pk?

    We are not keeping Iranian involvement secret from the Mullahs, nor Mr Maliki nor Mr al-Hakim nor Mr al-Sadr.

    My own personal experience votes for a disinformation campaign, by US, to avoid the consequences that honor would demand, if the information was well known amongst US.

  7. I seem to remember discussing this right here in the EB after the election : How far would each of the political parties sacrifice our own people to give themselves a fig leaf, and blame defeat on the other party? Guess we really gonna get to see how deep that particular rabbit hole goes.

  8. Like idiots (all fucking Generals are idiots) they haven't planned on the enemy adapting. They've had three years to pack our helicopters with defensive capabilities, and they haven't done it.
    Oh, but they have planned, and consider it cheaper to lose some choppers. And those optional accessory thingies choppers have, you know, like crews and stuff. Besides, its just army choppers, not something important like air force aircraft.

    *Chopper crews are worthy of respect, quite unlike zoomies.

    The thing that really sucks is that the A-10 guys normally rock. Saved a whole lot of folks on the ground with good pinpoint CAS the last couple years. Most all the dumb and dumber friendly fire incidents have been true fast movers F-16 and F-18s. But listening to those two assholes best guess IFF has shaken my faith.

  9. The choppers, rufus, are only a symptom. A symptom that cannot be hidden from view.

    One reason for the lack of an enemy bodycount, easily figured ratios. The Irsraeli and US have shown combat KIA ratios approaching 100 to 1, in successful operations.

    We have not KIA 300,000 Iraqi Insurgents. aQIraq admitted to having 4,000 martyrs lost in the cause. They have been, historicly, 5 to 10% of the Sunni Insurgency.
    So, perhaps 45,000 Insurgents have been KIA, total.

    Gives US a kill ration of 15 to 1, more or less. That is not a winning ratio, but an even worse symptom than the chopper losses, but one that is unseen and unreported.

  10. d'Rat,

    The best way to increase that kill ratio is by having AQ supporters meet their fate on American made IEDs. I understand there are whole bus loads of them heading west to Jordan and Syria via Anbar province.

    Smart bombs are for dummies.

  11. Meanwhile, Punky's Saudi friends keep on keeping on and US border agents keep going to jail.

    "The principal of an Islamic school has admitted that it uses textbooks which describe Jews as 'apes' and Christians as 'pigs' and has refused to withdraw them."

    "In another exchange, Dr Alyusuf insisted the books should not be scrapped, saying that allegedly racist sections had been 'misinterpreted'.

    The school is owned, funded and run by the government of Saudi Arabia."

    "It is part of a deliberate Saudi initiative to install Wahabbism extremism among Muslims and in the rest of society."

    "Pupils have allegedly been heard saying they want to 'kill Americans', praising 9/11 and idolising Osama bin Laden as their 'hero'."

    We do use books that call Jews 'apes' admits head of Islamic school

  12. Of course, this is pure speculation but the heli targeting is part of the Iranian surge which manifested itself two weeks ago with the demonstrations in Lebanon.

    The Iranians are responding to Bush's rhetoric and carrier groups and the surge.

  13. Who is "all in" and who is just uppin' the ante, in a no limit game?

    Or is the US even sitting at a "No Limit" table?

    Ahh, the limits are self imposed.
    Each player at the table, playing for different stakes. Maybe even different games, I see.

    Listen, I think I hear a mouse that roars, an entire herd, in fact.

  14. Space travel can unbalance the mind?

    Who'd have ever guessed.

    So much for multiGenerational spaceflight.

  15. The government asked for and was granted a mistrail in the case of 1st Lt. Watada - just another day for the Bush league administration.

  16. Such weak sisters.

    Even when it's so well known, proven in case after case, I'm still surprised. Left in suspended disbelief.

    Mistrial for the young Lt. hardtime for the Border Patrolmen.

    Rally round the flag, boys!
    Rally round!

  17. Their Goals do not always coincide.

  18. Oh, on the birthday of Ronald Wilson Reagan, or there abouts, before or since, has the Islamic Republic of Iran been bombed, its nuclear cascades destroyed?
    By the US or the Israeli?

    Did I miss it, some how?

    Yeah, that's what I thought.